Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Internal Discernment

My journey and resistance to the Muse over four centuries certainly had its moments. They inspired deep reflections about insight and discernment. To say that Trailing Sky Six Feathers became my inner compass misses the point. The indescribable, palpable truth is that this deep source of feminine wisdom was not only lodged in my mind, it was integrated with my total being. My conversations with Trailing Sky opened up the past for my understanding. These dialogs were very different from Carl Jung’s “Red Book,” as I chose one voice to listen to rather than a multitude of competitors in my deep unconscious.

SKU-000915196_COVER_V2.indd

The daily conversations with Trailing Sky took place in a mental meditation wheel. This was taught to me by my medicine woman mentor, White Eagle Woman. She had taught me how to create a mental medicine wheel early in my training with her. I was always to start by bringing into my mind the ancient shaman from the East, then the South, West and North in succession. Finally I was to bring in the ancient shaman from the Centre in. She instructed me to see this as a map in my mind, the foundation for a personal mandala. Next, I was instructed by White Eagle Woman to call forth the animal guides I had personally experienced, again starting from the East. I had experienced many animal guides and told her so. White Eagle Woman retorted with some exasperation:
“Choose the most powerful ones, dammit.”

With that cryptic encouragement, I chose mountain lion in the East, moose in the South, deer in the West and medicine bear in the North, with dolphin and whale below and the great eagles above. The space at the centre of the medicine wheel was a still-point, a safety zone and conduit for different time/space conjunctions. It became the meeting place for my later dialogs with Trailing Sky. The dialogs with Trailing Sky expanded my mind beyond its logical limitations. There were certainly times that I did not understand, but never, ever was Trailing Sky incorrect. There was something primordial about her all seeing wisdom that was now infusing me, so that I could live and love better. Major lessons in radical self-correction were received through respectful engagement with this very deep Muse. Greater wisdom, compassion and understanding emerged, so that I could engage more intelligently with the travails of life and teach that way of being to others. It made the prophecy of the Deer card, drawn at the medicine wheel with Yaqui guide Sam in Sedona (2007), come alive.
Bringer of the message of a new paradigm resting on gentleness and compassion that serves the Earth Mother and penetrates all beings – no matter how wounded they may be. With great courage the Deer clears the path for others to reach their destiny with Spirit by taking away fear.

Death and Dying

In my family and culture there is very little discussion about death and dying, though as a child I did have an intuitive understanding. When my grandfather died I felt him as a tangible presence when he was in his coffin. I quietly whispered to this gracious being: “Go to Heaven now grandpa.” I also remember at his wake how upset I became by my relatives drinking, arguing and being disrespectful to one another. In tears I sought out my grandmother and complained that everyone was making it hard for my grandpa to go to Heaven. She listened carefully to me and wiped my tears away. Then walked into the living room of her house and with quiet authority asked everyone to go home. It was much later in life, once I was exposed to Buddhist teachings on death and dying, that I realized I was not such a crazy kid after all. I had cared for my grandfather’s consciousness after his physical death. Much later in life, I knew that preparation for death was also training for life, though I did not always pay attention to this insight.

I was intrigued by the opportunity for liberation at the time of death, though I could see clearly that my ego and habits were obstacles in the way. I did want to be able to merge my consciousness at the time of death with what the Sufis call “the great magnificence.” Or if I got confused and fearful at the time of death – to receive guidance to do so. I felt that if my death is aware, then in the final state of becoming, my consciousness would take a form that would serve Mother Earth and all sentient beings. I liked this idea of recycling – it appealed to the ecologist within me! This retraining was done fitfully, not in a consistent manner until just before I left for India. There, the preparation became a daily practice of being aware of universal consciousness totally prepared to merge with my pitifully weak and not-so-awakened-mind. My leap of faith was that these understandings about death and dying were all in my mind. This meant that in everyday living I could use my mind to take the steps to prepare for that final moment of merging with the wisdom mind of the universe and do this while I was alive. Perhaps the “alive” bit is the whole point!

Ian in India

During my training as a guru in India I became seriously ill, but was not surprised by the lack of panic. I clearly remember Saturday, December 21, 1996 as if it were yesterday. On that day I let go of all attachments to my body and surrendered to a sense of freedom never before experienced. Throughout the day and evening I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus from cover to cover, practicing meditations that spoke to me. I was living in a small ashram in the city of Mumbai – reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category, yet felt their grace close at hand. One humorous manifestation of that grace occurred one morning when I woke up to find a visiting Swami sitting by my bedside. He smiled broadly and helped me to sit up, then surprised me with his words: “We are all so happy that you have decided to die in India with us, if indeed you are to die. And we will be even happier if you live.” The Swami just beamed love and understanding to me. My reply, as best I remember, was to just say: “Me too!” He made me some tea with herbs, provided a blessing and then left. When I went to sleep that Saturday night I was content and happy. Diary entries chart the journey.

Thay Bowing (2)

CAROLYN’S DIARY
December 12, 1996:
Ian called. He is so sick that he can hardly talk and his voice is unrecognizable. A cold chill ran down my spine. He says he’s had surgery and that his systems are all crashing, one by one. But he’s not afraid. I believe he is not afraid of dying if that is what’s happening. What can I do? My first instinct is to go to India, to be with him, to care for him, but no, he says this is a journey he must go through alone. I am so worried. All I can do is surround him with light and love. And I pray, I pray that God will care for him, make him well and keep him safe. Dad is in the hospital dying from heart disease, two open-heart surgeries in the last month. The doctors are amazed that he is still living. I wonder if he is afraid to die. I’m being forced to look at death, my fears, at my attachments. I cry. Dad has been ill for many years and I know he will not likely survive this ordeal, but Ian. Ian is too young. His life work is not done. He still has so much to offer.

Ian speaks about the possibility of death with such calm. He’s not afraid, but I am. I don’t want to lose him. I am not prepared to let him go. Over the phone from India, Ian teaches me about no birth and no death, that we continue living in all that we touch, simply a different manifestation than our physical bodies. But this is too difficult for me to accept at the moment. I am attached. I do not want to let him go. Ian directs me to the teachings on impermanence and encourages me to meditate on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances: being of the nature to grow old, the nature to become ill, the nature to die, the nature for all things to change and knowing that we will be separated from those we hold dear and that our only true possessions are the consequences of our actions.

MY DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 20, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Feel weaker than ever this morning. Could hardly make it from my bed to the bathroom. Hope the saints who have passed through this little ashram are casting a protective eye over me. Perhaps they can cheer up Chotolal, the Nepali cook here, who has become quite anxious, especially as I have not had the energy or inclination to eat the special dishes he prepares. He is watching me write in my diary, so I will change hands and write with my left hand so he can laugh and feel less anxious about me. It worked!

Why have I become so ill? All my bodily systems have gone off line. Is there some major purification going on in my body, is there something I do not see? What lessons are there? Or are my days drawing to a close in the silence of this ashram? My blood tests from the hospital show that I am low and deficient in just about every category and the medications only make me feel worse. So many questions and worries yet they do not seem totally important. I ask them then they fade away. It is a bit strange. A few days ago, I collapsed and passed out while at dinner at Madhuma’s house. I know that she and her family would take me in, yet this saint’s refuge is where I feel most comfortable right now. The quiet and simplicity of the place speaks to me. I guess it allows me to prepare for death.
Have been in an almost constant state of meditation for weeks now. A deep quiet silence. Making entries in this diary is almost an interruption. Yesterday, Tom and Bev phoned from Tucson in the States and it was wonderful to talk to them. They sent prayers from the desert. Another friend, Barbara, from Michigan also phoned. She tunes into me very closely and was sufficiently alarmed to offer to fly to Mumbai and take me back to the States to get well in her home. Their love and care is very moving, but I know that whatever is to happen is to be here in India.

It was not easy to communicate this to Carolyn, but I do believe she understands. My prayer is that she does not suffer unduly. Have sent Chotolal to buy some cards and stamps for me. The cards are beautifully hand painted on pipal leaves with pictures of the Buddha, Krishna dancing and other such scenes. Want to make sure I finish my Christmas list. Sending Christmas cards to friends and loved ones. Feel such a calm about all this that would normally surprise the heck out of me. The calm is just there, sitting with me, just fine.
I know there is a distinct possibility I will not live beyond Christmas and want to send out a Christmas message from India:“Blessings and Love from Ian.” Writing the cards has exhausted me, but I feel satisfied and full, mission accomplished. Chotolal brought in a package of mail from Canada: letters and cards from family and friends, a framed photograph of Carolyn, my dearest friend and companion. Made me very happy, also made me cry as I thought of friends I may not see again. Yet they were strange tears, not full of sorrow or anything, just tears as I thought of loving friends.

I keep falling asleep very quietly then waking up very quietly. Sleep is like a light breeze that seems to visit now and then. Ate a little bit of dinner to allay Chotolal’s anxiety, but it is my supply of rice malt and vitamin C that is keeping me going. Chotolal placed some fruit and water on the table by my bed, then left to spend the next day with Nepali friends in another part of the city, taking my pile of Christmas cards to post. I am enjoying the silence and solitude, now that he has left. It is about nine o’clock in the evening and I am drifting off to sleep on gentle wings.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 21, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Waking up was easy, getting up was a struggle but did that in stages. The quiet and silence inside the ashram is quite palpable and almost visible. I remembered my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. Had a dream about her during the night, but do not recall all the details. I do remember that she told me to construct a mental medicine wheel around me and include all my spiritual ancestors. Did that and feel an incredible constellation of energies, like millions of guardian angels from everywhere.

Took some fruit and returned to my book of meditations and began to read slowly, stopping frequently to close my eyes and feel the words. Have no sense of time or space today, as each meditation seems to move me with its own measure and carry me along. Feel such a deepening in my heart, all the way inside my body. Aware that there is no fear or panic, just a simple and happy acceptance. That is all that is there. I have never experienced anything like this. Have no thought of anything and feel deeply content for no apparent reason. Is this surrender? Peace with God? No flashing lights, visitations, or visions, only a quiet surrender and being with the inevitability of it all, whatever “THAT” is.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 22, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
I woke up this morning, heard two crows saying hello from the tree outside the window. Feel so happy to be alive. Chotolal is singing in the kitchen and rattling his pots and pans, so I will celebrate this new day with a little breakfast. That will make us both very happy. A clear insight that this “death” is a spiritual one, as is the “rebirth.” I feel completely new this morning, as though I have been rewired and plugged into sockets with a bigger voltage. Part of my preparation to continue moving along the path of understanding.

Vesak Day Celebration in Ottawa

The Ottawa Vesak Day and Asian Heritage Month celebrations and ceremony, will be attended by Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Pisan Manawapat, the Hon. Senator Vernon White, the Hon. MP Royal Galipeau, the Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Labour, MPP, Jack MacLaren, MPP, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa City Councillors Shad Qudri and Marianne Wilkinson and various diplomatic dignitaries on Sunday, May 4th at Ottawa City Hall. Event highlights include messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Ontario. There will also be speeches by the Ambassador of Thailand, Mayor Jim Watson and the Founder of Vesak Day in Ottawa and Sirin Chairman, Visita Leelaratna. Through the efforts and collaboration of various inter-cultural groups, the Vesak and Asian Heritage Month festivities will also be attended by the Ottawa community at large. The celebrations will also feature Sanga chanting for World Peace, cultural performances and art displays from Ottawa’s diverse Asian communities.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the festivities at Jean Pigott Place, City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West from 13:00 to 16:30. Admission is free.

This is a unique opportunity for Ottawa to participate in the multi-cultural celebrations of Asian Heritage and mark Vesak Day which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. In addition, the occasion will be used for an inspirational talk on cyber-bullying by Carleton Professor Emeritus Dr. Ian Prattis, the Zen teacher at Pine Gate. The delivery of the official proclamation of “Vesak Day” by Mayor Jim Watson will be at 14:00. There will be a number of performances at the festivities. The Thai Dance Troupe of Ottawa (TDO), and People’s Choice Awards Winner 2009 sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy will present the Homage to Lord Buddha, a fifteen minute journey through time, music, and dance which celebrates the Birth of Lord Buddha. Sri Lankan Hevisi drummers will lead the Sanga procession. Seniors from the Chinese Senior Support Centre in Kanata will perform a dance called Happy Together and a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group in Ottawa will perform the Lion Dance.

Thai Dancers

Light refreshments will follow the performance portion and from 15:30 to 16:30 attendees will be free to visit and enjoy the booths and beautiful art displays. A highlight of this special day will be the display of seven of the world’s most beautiful statues of the Awakened One: the Buddha, celebrating his message of peace. The day’s activities will wind down with “a day of compassion” which will encourage people to reaffirm their determination to practice loving-kindness.
Program: Ottawa City Hall, May 4, 1.00pm – 4.30pm
1:00 pm: Visiting Booths and Art Display
1:25 pm: Sangha Procession into the hall with Sri Lankan Temple Drums
1:30 pm: Canadian National Anthem
1:35 pm: MC Acknowledgements for Vesak and Asian Heritage
1:40 pm: Sangha Chanting for World Peace
2:00 pm: VIP Messages from:
1. Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston: Hon Senator Vernon White
2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hon MP Royal Galipeau
3. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: Hon MPP Yasir Naqvi
Speeches:
1. Thailand Ambassador to Canada, Pisan Manawapat ;
2. Founder of Sirin and Vesak in Ottawa, Visita Leelaratna,
3. “Vesak Day” Proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson
2:20 pm: Vietnamese Youth Group Dance
2:30 pm: Inspirational Talk on “Can We Stop Cyberbullying?” By Dr. Ian Prattis
2:45 pm: “Homage to Lord Buddha” Thai dance troupe
3:00 pm: Chinese dance group
3:15 pm: Lion Dance by Vietnamese Youth group
3:30 pm: THANK YOU – MC’s final statements
Refreshment and Visiting Booths and Beautiful Art Display until 4:30 pm
4:30 pm: End of Program
http://www.VesakinOttawa.com

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – worked together to bring about the Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival had the good fortune to receive guidance from three spiritual advisors: Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa for the Vesak Festival in Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.
Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).

Buddha Picture

In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.

Mindful Consumption

In order to shift our patterns of consumption from a non-mindful state to a mindful state, we need a great deal of support. Part of that support can be engendered by an awareness of the consequences of our consumption, yet we also need the support of friends, family and sangha, so that a shift from meat eating to vegetarianism, from cooked food to raw food can be effected. It is helpful if pot luck vegetarian meals are organized on a regular basis with friends, that certain mealtimes with family are conducted in silence, while everyone contemplates the nature of the food consumed. For instance, when I am fully present with my food and look deeply into how it came to be on my plate, there are often wonderful surprises, especially in the summertime when I eat a bowl of raspberries. I slow down, breathing consciously in and out, and before eating these plump red berries I look deeply into how they came to be there. I see raspberry canes, the elements of sunshine, rain and good soil. I see the gardener looking after the raspberries with weeding and composting, people picking them and placing them in baskets, truck drivers taking them to market, people buying them. Above all else I see my grandmother.

As a little boy I believed that my grandmother had the biggest raspberry patch in the world! I would pick raspberries with her, some for bottling and jam, but mostly to sit down with my grandmother and enjoy eating them with her. My grandmother was very special. I would be sent to her house once a week by my parents to do gardening and chores for my grandmother, but she had other ideas. She wanted to spend time with me, her first grandson, and so she hired another little boy in the neighborhood to do the chores and paid him a shilling a week. This clever strategy was one I fully enjoyed. We would talk, have tea, and pick raspberries together. She used to make exquisite lace with a crochet needle, and one of my favorite memories is still that of curling up in her big armchair with a bowl of raspberries, while she sat in front of me making lace. I ate the raspberries very slowly, as I was so happy. She was my first teacher in mindfulness, though it was never called that, but that was its true name. She passed away many years ago, yet eating raspberries with deep looking reminds me that she is with me still, as I touch the elements and web of life that brings raspberries to my bowl. This kind of support is essential to bring about the shift in consciousness that enables us to consume mindfully with compassion.

To assist deep looking at mealtimes, or whenever we eat food, there is a simple exercise to do – the Five Contemplations. If we have a bell at home we can invite it twice before reciting it. If there is not a bell, a half filled glass of water and a spoon to tap it with will do just as well. Once the bell has been invited twice we recite the Five Contemplations:

THE FIVE CONTEMPLATIONS

THIS FOOD THIS DAY, AND THIS FAMILY ARE GIFTS OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE – THE EARTH, THE SKY, THE STARS, NUMEROUS LIVING BEINGS AND MUCH HARD WORK
MAY WE RECEIVE THEM WITH STABILITY, JOY, AND FREEDOM, AND SO BE WORTHY OF THEM
MAY WE TRANSFORM OUR UNSKILLFUL STATES OF MIND, ESPECIALLY OUR GREED, AND LEARN TO EAT IN MODERATION, AND LOVE IN ABUNDANCE
MAY WE KEEP OUR COMPASSION ALIVE BY EATING IN SUCH A WAY THAT WE REDUCE THE SUFFERING OF LIVING BEINGS, STOPS CONTRIBUTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE, AND HEALS AND PRESERVES OUR PRECIOUS PLANET
WE ACCEPT THIS FOOD, THIS DAY, THESE FRIENDS, SO WE MAY NOURISH OUR SISTERHOOD AND BROTHERHOOD, STRENGTHEN OUR FAMILY AND NOURISH OUR IDEAL OF SERVING ALL BEINGS.

Then another sound of the bell is invited and we eat in silence for 10–12 minutes, looking deeply into our food, the consequences of its production and consumption, and connect to the web of life of the entire cosmos. Part of that connection is to be very aware of the millions around the world who are starving, and as we eat mindfully we may resolve to help alleviate the suffering of world hunger. After the period of silence, the bell is invited once again so that people can speak.

This is a wonderful exercise for families. Place the children in charge of the bell and the reading of the Five Contemplations. When the final bell is invited for speaking – adults talk about what is going right on this day, enquiring about their children’s good experiences. It is not the time to collar their offspring for misdemeanors. No wonder kids often absent themselves from family meals. Rather than intimidation, the children enjoy becoming empowered, as they are on the bell, reading and timing and enjoy exploring deeply what the food meant to them at this meal time. This nurtures family dynamics in a beautiful way.

Ian and Lady at Pine Gate

At home when I am on my own, I make a special effort to prepare and consume meals mindfully. It is such a joy as I have two assistants – my dog Nikki and my cat Lady. As I set the table I tell them that this is a mindful meal and after the first two bells I cannot talk to them. I set a bowl of treats for each of them on the table and after I recite the Five Contemplations, I put their bowls down on the floor and I begin my meal. My two dharma pets always sit quietly after their treats until the bell is invited once again to bring the silence to an end. Then Nikki will want her ears scratched and Lady climbs up on to my lap. They bring such fun and joy to my mindful meals with them.

At Pine Gate Mindfulness Community we occasionally practice eating a formal meal together in the meditation hall. There are two rows facing one another and we sit in silence for a while before standing and slowly going upstairs to where the pot-luck supper is laid out. We file out with Carolyn leading followed by myself and then alternating between men and women. We prefer this form to the monastic style of men going first followed by the women. Quietly we place food on our plates and return to our sitting places in the meditation hall. The Five Contemplations are read out in English and in French by Sangha members. I then state: “The Buddha invites us to enjoy eating our meal in mindfulness,” at which point we begin to eat our food with the attention described above. Slowly, contemplatively, tasting the food and its source, we connect to all the beings that played a part in bringing such food to land on our plates.

When everybody is finished eating, the bell master invites the bell for us to stand. Another bell has Carolyn leading us upstairs as before. We now have dessert to look forward to and tea. We sit in small groups upstairs, or out on the deck and in the garden and talk to one another. Without fail everyone enjoyed the exquisite nature of the taste of food and silence. As much of the ingredients of the formal meal came from our organic garden, there is the natural investigation of the plants thriving in the garden. It is a wonderful way to eat together as a community. Mindful consumption nourishes our minds as well as our bodies.

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Milarepa: Movie Review

I had the honour of opening the Ottawa Tibet Film Festival on March 21, at St Paul’s University in Ottawa, with a talk about the Milarepa film. Shot in the stunning Lahaul-Spiti region of Northern India next to the Tibet border, it evokes the stark beauty of the Himalayas.
Milarepa was the first Tibetan to attain liberation in a single lifetime. His life offers a provocative parallel to the cycle of violence and retribution consuming today’s modern world. We can all identify with Milarepa as a human being with flaws. The same flaws as us – and then some! This is not a story of high lamas or reincarnation of the Buddha – it portrays dharma about ordinary life, encountering the human weaknesses and adversity that provide the engine to drive us to awaken. It is a story about ordinary people who become extraordinary through their ordeals and transformation. The name Milarepa ties this together very nicely. Mila means great man, Repa means –cotton clad one. So in his dharma name – Milarepa contains the ordinary with the great.

Milarepa Photo

H.H. the Dalai Lama was reduced to tears at seeing this film about a 11th century saint, revered in Tibet as a National Hero. But one with a very dark and flawed past. Named Thopaga at birth, we see how his life is turned upside down on the death of his wealthy father. His uncle and aunt squander his inheritance and force his mother and himself into a life of poverty and destitution. In despair, anger and revenge his mother sends him to train with a master sorcerer. He excels in the dark arts, so much so that he is able to rain down a terrible storm and rock landslide on his village when his uncle and aunt are holding a marriage ceremony for their son. He kills 35 people, children, women and men. His aunt and uncle escape the carnage and send a party after him. Milarepa declares that he can kill them all and sends another rock slide their way to scatter his pursuers.

Yet he is harrowed to the bone by his deeds, the direct consequence of his anger and vengeance. The story of greed, sorcery, vengeance and murder also has redemption and awakening woven into it, the reason for the Dalai Lama to be deeply moved by the film. Milarepa from 11th century Tibet provides a vivid reflection of the tumult and agony of present times. Violence, revenge, murder, all these ingredients can be found around the world – the Middle East, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand and North Korea to mention only a few. What Milarepa provides is proof that we can transform adversity through deep redemption and awakening. No matter how dark and demonic our mind – we can transform it. The film comes to an end at the point where Milarepa sets out to seek his teacher of a different way – Marpa the Translator who was the spiritual heir of Naropa. He endures terrible ordeals and this is the staple of the sequel film that is not yet released. Part II as it were.

In the 1990’s H.H. the Dalai Lama and Francisco Varela collaborated to bring the Mind and Life Conferences into existence. They still continue to this day. They brought advanced meditators and neuroscientists together to study the mind and consciousness. Their joint experience and research turned science on its head, as they were able to share the finding that the mind was malleable, capable of change and transformation with the application of meditation, solitude, dharma practice and deep introspection.
Marpa the Translator on meeting Milarepa demanded to see a display of his sorcery. This was done, at which point Marpa refused to teach him until he went through a series of brutal ordeals. He had Milarepa build a stone tower and then forced him to take it down – three times in succession. The fourth multi story tower he had Milarepa build still stands at Lhodrag in Tibet. All the while Marpa taunted Milarepa, referring to him as the Great Magician to constantly remind him of his past sins and the harm he had done. He pushed Milarepa to the limits of his body and mind in the intent of purifying him of his past evil deeds.

Marpa knew what he was doing, completely in accord with the much later findings of the Mind and Life conferences. He also knew that Milarepa was his spiritual heir. Milarepa tried to leave several times and then became aware that he was the author of his own misery. Marpa was unwavering in his seeming cruelty. Relentless and ruthless until he saw changes take place in Milarepa’s mind. It took twelve years, with protracted time alone in utter solitude in the Tibetan wilderness. Milarepa lived in caves and survived on eating nettles and drinking snow melt. His mind settled and at the age of 45 he entered into full awakening. He attracted followers from far and wide and taught first of all from Drakar Taso cave – the White Rock Horse Tooth cave – and then from other caves before becoming a much sought out wandering teacher.

He left an unusual legacy – the Songs of Milarepa. When asked a question from a disciple he would go very still and the answer would emerge from deep in his mind in the form of song. He would put aside their questions about devas, gods and hungry ghosts and return the listeners to a clear understanding of the dharma, and present them with the task at hand, which was their awakening – and here were the tools to do it. His songs were beautiful dharma talks laying out a clear path of emancipation for his followers. The bottom line from Milarepa was always that the path of enlightenment is open to all, no matter how dark and dreadful the past.
A disciple once asked him if he was an emanation from a past Buddha. Milarepa provided an immediate “No”– that such a notion would deprecate the monumental ordeals and suffering he had transformed to enter full awakening. Frank Sinatra has a song for Milarepa – “He Did It His Way, In His Lifetime!”

Milarepa photo 2

Ian is the Zen teacher at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and the Founder of Friends for Peace. He gives talks and retreats around the world, though prefers to stay local to turn the tide just a little bit so that good things happen spontaneously in his home city of Ottawa.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a wonderful legacy left to us by the Buddha. It is a meditative form that can be used for many purposes – for calming and slowing down, for insight and looking deeply and also for healing. We know from our experience of hikes in nature, or neighborhood walks after dinner, that sudden flashes of insight often arise in concert with our footsteps. We then see clearly how to handle a predicament or solve a problem. Imagine what can happen when we add conscious awareness to our footsteps. When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we actually have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body. When we add a third concentration–aware of how our feet touch the earth–we have a meditative practice designed for our times. We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth–Heel, then Ball of Foot, then Toe. We slow down even further and with our body, not our intellect or ego, we make a contract with Mother Earth to walk more lightly on her surface and leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use and commit to decreasing the size of our ecological footprint.

With this concentrated focus of walking meditation there is very little opportunity for the mind to worry about past events or future anticipations. The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive. We slow down internally with the focus on breath, steps and contact with the earth. This is aided by another component we can add to walking meditation–a gentle half smile kept on your lips to nurture the peace and silence within. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs.

Walking meditation is a powerful methodology for healing ourselves and the earth. We start by breathing in and out with full attention to the in-breath and to the out-breath. Co-ordinating our breath with our steps we breathe in, saying silently to ourselves, “Breathing in” as we take two or three slow steps. Then as we breathe out, we say, “Breathing out” as we take two or three slow steps, fully aware of breathing in and out, and of walking slowly step by step. Sometimes you will take two steps, sometimes three or four steps, sometimes there will be more steps on the out-breath than on the in-breath. Allow the breath and lungs to find a natural rhythm with your steps. It is the concentration and awareness that matters, not whether you take two or three steps.

The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive. It slows us down step by step so that our mind enters silence. This is the important first stage of meditative practice, Samatha, learning to stop our busyness and mental agitations. When we come to a stop internally, then the opportunity is there to see deeply into ourselves and know the true nature of our reality.

First of all we must close the external doors of our preoccupations with judgements, ego-attachments and illusions; for then the inner doors to the heart begin to open. That is where Vipassana happens, deep looking and insight into the heart of ourselves and of all matter. Both arise in walking meditation, as we slow down internally with the focus on breath, steps and gatha. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs because in the present moment we touch our true nature and enter heart consciousness. From this consciousness we experience our interconnectedness with all, touching the Divinity in ourselves and others. In this consciousness all our relationships are shaped by the experience of oneness, for our relationships are with Buddha consciousness, with Christ consciousness, with whatever term comes naturally to you to describe the Divinity within all.

Walking meditation is also a powerful methodology for healing, as we automatically discard our distress and anxiety while we are doing it. If we closely observe animals when they are injured or hurt, we would notice that they retreat to a safe place and slow their breathing and metabolism down, so that their internal energies of healing are activated. They do not eat, remaining still and quiet they come to a deep rest and heal as they stop. This is all done instinctively; no one has taught them about Samatha–it is simply the first step animals take in healing themselves. If our modern medical doctors would learn this lesson from animals and the Buddha they could guide their patients to stop and meditate, enter inner silence and enhance the recovery process by allowing the internal energies of healing to arise. All of the components of walking meditation – Samatha, Vipassana and healing – become a single focus as we maintain our awareness of being in the present moment. We just need to practice it.

ian at brook

At the university where I used to teach, I would walk from the bus stop and take a detour around the greenhouses of the Botany Department and come to the Rideau River that runs along one side of the campus. From there I had a kilometer of riverbank to practice walking meditation before arriving at my office building. It is quite secluded in parts and the river has sets of rapids that greatly enrich my walk. One section of the path takes my steps through a cedar grove, and I always feel a sacred blessing from these beautiful trees. I slow my walking right down to a three–three rhythm when I enter the cedar grove. The path is never the same, as the seasons change its character. Autumn leaves give way to snowfall as winter leaves her embrace. My clothes and footwear change, yet my steps, breathing and feet touching the earth remain constant. The rustle of autumn leaves is replaced by the crunch of snow and ice, which gives way to the mud and rain of spring before the heat of summer allows me to walk in sandals or barefoot. The birds and foliage change with the seasons, as does the river–iced over in winter, turbulent in the spring and calm in summer and fall. Students with their books and friends congregate by the river when the weather is sunny.

Autumn Sunset

I notice the changes in the seasonal round of nature, yet remain with my breathing, footsteps and the earth, so that I am not drawn into unnecessary thought. It takes me approximately twenty minutes to arrive at my office. I am in a clear, calm state and better able to be of assistance to students and colleagues and bring my own sense of calm and clarity to the university. On leaving the university I retrace my steps of walking meditation along the river before going home, or to appointments in the city. The experience engenders the same calm and clarity. This walk is Paradise, a constant reminder to me for those occasions when I am not in touch with the Earth Mother. We do not need to walk on water, or over hot coals. We simply need to walk on the earth and touch her deeply with our full awareness. That is all that walking meditation is.

Buddha's Geet

Rainbow Meditation

Meditation at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community

Metaphor is a means for awareness to connect to symbol, so that the spiritual guidance inherent in all that symbolizes the transcendental can be grasped. The metaphor, be it a concept of the Almighty or a symbol for Truth, is an external mental form that corresponds to an internal symbolic structure that is not usually known as personal experience. Meditation places you in a particular energy, or consciousness, that brings forth from the metaphor a personal experience that you integrate with physically. Knowledge is then owned by the body, it does not remain a mere intellectual artifice. In meditation, the focus on a particular metaphor is to bring to the surface specific qualities that are felt as a physical circulation throughout and around your body. Be in this energy in a detached manner so that the qualities of the metaphor become physically encompassed as experience, without any accompanying projections. In this manner the qualities inherent in particular metaphors can eventually be brought into form. These changes create shifts in cognitive/perceptual mind states and permit you to see a larger picture of interconnectedness that was formerly not possible. The Rainbow Meditation may illustrate the experience of metaphor as vibration through the changing focus of colour on the major chakras of the body. Colour addresses all levels of our being, as you will discover when breathing in the rainbow.

Remember that you breathe with your entire body. Accompanying the seven main chakras in this meditation, is attention to particular colours that correspond precisely to each chakra. Each colour represents a tonal chord, or sound current that activate the tonal frequencies of its corresponding chakra. The colour Red is associated with the root chakra at the bottom of the spine; Orange with the chakra located in the sacral region; Yellow with the solar plexus or navel chakra; Green with the heart chakra; Blue with the throat chakra; Indigo with the brow chakra; and Violet and White with the crown chakra. These are experienced in sequence during the Rainbow Meditation.

Rainbows 2

Sit comfortably with the spine erect, with your feet firmly connected to the floor. Place your hands either in your lap or upon your knees. Breathe softly into the heart chakra, up to the crown chakra on the in-breath, and on the out-breath take it down to the toes and relax into the quiet calm of meditative silence. Take at least five breaths, and when you feel ready to do so, breathe in through the soles of your feet and bring the colour Red up through your legs and fill your entire body. Breathe gently in and out as you note the physical sensation of vibrant and alive Red, where it circulates through the body and, most important, where it is blocked and does not flow. Now settle in to the experience of Red for five breaths. Then visualize this colour being pushed out of your body, starting from the head and going downwards, so that the colour Red goes out through the soles of the feet into the earth. Once this is done take time to register with the emptiness in the body. Take five breaths and connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Orange in through the soles of your feet and fill the entire body. Breathe gently in and out. As before, note the changes in energy circulation throughout the body. Breathe regularly within the experience of the vibrational frequency of Orange for five breaths. After a time, visualize this colour being pushed out of the body, like a coffee plunger, from the head down through the soles of the feet and into the Earth. Once more register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to register with the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Yellow in through the soles of your feet and fill the body with this fresh spring colour. Note the physical changes in bodily sensations associated with Yellow and the navel chakra as you take five breaths. Then, as before, visualize the colour being pushed out of the body through the feet, and once again register with emptiness for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

On the next in-breath bring the colour Green directly into the heart chakra, behind the sternum, and from this location flood the body with a lush verdant Green colour. Breathe into this changed frequency for five breaths and take note of your bodily feedback. After a while, visualize Green being pushed out of the body from the head downwards and out through the soles of the feet into the earth. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Blue into the throat chakra, and flood the entire body with this tonal chord of energy frequencies and stay with it for five breaths. Circulation may be blocked as expression is frequently denied, so focus Blue through a clear crystal, which you visualize in the center of your throat. This may enhance circulation. Note where the colour moves throughout the body, and the corresponding bodily sensations. Breathe regularly into this energy state, and learn about the properties of Blue and of expression. Then push the colour out through the feet and breathe in to the emptiness within the body for another five breaths. Register with emptiness in the body. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then bring the colour Indigo directly through the third eye chakra and fill the body with this frequency. Spiritual Insight is frequently subject to blockage, therefore circulation through this chakra may be facilitated by visualizing an Indigo octagon in the middle of the forehead through which the frequency of this colour is drawn in to the body. Register with changing body sensations, and become familiar with the tonal properties of Indigo for five breaths, then push it out of the body through the feet and take note of emptiness within the body. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Bring the colour Violet into the body through the crown chakra on the top of your head with the next breath. This circulation can be enhanced by visualizing the crown chakra as a fully opened lotus flower with a thousand petals, through which you draw in the colour Violet. Feel the special quality of Violet extending within the body and wear it lightly as an internal cloak. Breathe regularly five times into this changed energy state and note everything in the body as before. Then push the colour Violet out of the body through the feet into the earth. Feel an intense emptiness within the body. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathing with the entire body, fill yourself with brilliant, crystalline White light and breathe regularly in to this new frequency. Do not direct your breath, simply be aware of in-breath and out-breath and the circulation of energy in the body. Remain in this breathing state for ten minutes. When thoughts arise, observe them, but do not participate in them or fuel them with energy. In this way your energy will remain with the experience of the Rainbow Meditation.

At the end of the meditation reflect on the differences felt during the distinct phases of meditation, and contrast the present feeling within the body to your physical state prior to meditation. Reflect on, and discern, the discrete effects and circulation of each colour, and its association with particular chakras and write down your experience or share with a partner. With continued emphasis on this delightful meditation you will feel new and changing connections between chakras. A sense of unification and harmony within all aspects of your being is now possible, as the chakras connect with one another as a single unified energy.

Rainbow 3

Why Am I Writing This Book?

When I talk to folk about Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With His Muse this is usually the first question I am asked. Here is what I reply:
Global citizens are staring into the abyss–yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Rumi’s wise words are cogent: “Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.” We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform.
I am writing Trailing Sky Six Feathers to shed light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. The example of my own challenging journey and personal transformation illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. We can and must transform. The key to change this deep freeze is Awakening, a spiritual relationship with self and Mother Earth.

The next inevitable question is – Who would be interested in this work? I reply that there are four audiences.
The Main Audience: Spiritual Seekers
I like to consider Trailing Sky Six Feathers the real life version of James Redfield’s best-selling fictional book The Celestine Prophecy. I have nine chapters, loaded with Insights and adventure. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is drawn from my actual lived experience. Reality based information is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for this project to become a fresh, new icon for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. Extensive shamanic training is highlighted, as it was the instrument to overcome my childhood sexual abuse. The journey of remembering childhood wounds and past lives will draw in people searching for interior solutions. In Trailing Sky Six Feathers I show that we can transform the damage and limitations of the past and step onto a path of enlightenment for all who suffer from road blocks in the mind. People around the world are overwhelmed by distraction, fear, suffering and violence – all of which keeps them frozen in a state of inaction – deeply wounded and unable to make changes within themselves and for the planet. The inner journey that occupies this book demonstrates that we do not have to be caught by our suffering, fear and maladaptive responses to Global Warming and Violence. We can take steady steps with wise mentors to break free of the chains and liberate ourselves.

The book will also attract the attention of people interested in Shamanism, Jung, Religion, New Age, Alternative Medicine, Meditation, Consciousness, Buddhism, India, Native American Culture and Wisdom of the Elders. The Sky People who mentored Trailing Sky in medicine lore will certainly pique the interest of Trekkies, given this extra-terrestrial component of the book. Ever since the Star Trek series captured the public imagination with time/space crossovers – there is an intense interest in how past realms and dimensions impact our present reality. That is the very fabric of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and it will appeal to the large Trekkie population who may be surprised that the adventure can happen without science fiction.

Men and Feminists
In Chapter Six: Rainbow Bridge Calling, I spend time exploring maps of Central Arizona to acquaint myself with the region’s ambience. I saw that Oak Creek ran through the Red Rock country of Sedona like a thread – drawing the canyons together. My exploration began with this Water element. This was one component of the Five Great Elements in Buddhist, Taoist and Native American belief – Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. I understood the sequence as the correspondence of all things to each other driven by the feminine vessel of enlightenment. I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. The feminine principle is the creator of all matter including the five elements and ourselves. This is why I began my exploration of the region with Water. Oak Creek was fed by spring water from the sacred canyons and she carried their unique energies in one stream. The foundation of the book is the feminine principle with a strong, powerful female character whose task is that of tutoring male stubbornness to surrender to the Muse.
This book will be sought out by men who acknowledge the feminine principle as a staple foundation of their masculinity. The story of my resistance, then final surrender, to The Muse will strike a chord within most men and provide encouragement for their persistent engagement with the internal feminine. Feminists will applaud and readily endorse such a book. The strong characters in the book are all women and the book revolves around the difficulties for men of engaging with the internal feminine principle. The testosterone ended drive of modern society raises the prospect of our species going over the cliff into the abyss. Trailing Sky Six Feathers moves the pendulum the other way to create a balance.

Environmentalists
In Chapter Seven: The Compass Changes, my point was that in every mind there is a Failsafe that would activate when matters grew so bad that moving to a new mindset would be inevitable. I argued that the notion of innate earth wisdom, when combined with tipping points in the mind and counter culture, would be sufficient to change our collective mentality in the direction of better earth stewardship and a new spiritual paradigm. On the flip side, I am very aware of the cascading collapse of the world’s eco-systems. That our overpopulated, technologically based civilization may not adapt to a fast changing future without wrecking the environment. If we wreck the environment we are toast. I knew to look for the means to shift our mind set. I replaced the question: “Can we fix the planet?” with a deeper question: “How do we fix ourselves?” I recognized that the modern era transition from “Reverential” to “Referential” with respect to the earth had to be reversed, pointing out that our technical and economic institutions were outstripping our basic humanity.
Planetary care is woven into this book in both the 18th and 21st centuries. The Wisdom of the Elders about the spiritual connection of humans with the Earth Mother provides the template for renewal in the first three chapters. That template is taken into the 21st century with my activism for planetary care through the Friends for Peace organization I established and write about in later chapters. This consistent address of environmental issues directly appeals to the growing environmental movement that Global Warming and Climate Change has catalyzed in the 21st century.

The Younger Generation
Also in Chapter Seven: The Compass Changes, I write about my last ecology class before retiring from Carleton University in 2007. Students encouraged me to get belligerent about Climate Change and its consequences. I enlisted their brilliance and diligence with a collective focus on eco-communities – from rural communities to urban condos – and promised to get testy. This adventure into the pre-conditions for eco-communities, however, had a much bigger intent. It reflected the particular shift in mindset required to salvage the global ecosystem for human habitation. Wherever we are located on the planet – it is essential to conduct ourselves as being part of a global eco-community. Our mindset has to be focused on the reality of living as one component of Gaia’s ecosystem. An edited collection emerged from the enthusiasm, insights and sheer hard work of these students.
This mentoring exercise with brilliant ecology students produced an excellent volume, which contributed to the 2011 Earth Day Environmental Award I received at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The highlight for me, however, was not the award. It was that the majority of students in this class chose to work as environmentalists in different sectors of the Canadian economy. They cared as much as I did and that was deeply fulfilling.

When I look at the younger generation emerging into maturity, I see beyond the ipods, electronic gadgetry and attitude to the deep intelligence that yearns for something better. I love their in-your-face attitude, as that is the energy of determination that will drive them to put things into balance on the planet. They are not caught so readily by the identities and trade-offs that my generation is so good at entertaining. They are breaking down the barriers of discrimination, storming the barricades of separation. I have only one thing to ask of them. That they slow down for a moment and hold out their hand. For as long as I have a spark in this mind and breath in this body I say to them: “Wait for me, because I am going with you.”
Young people just need to be presented with an opportunity for a way forward and the bell to step up. This book provides both. I can guarantee that Generation X and Y will respond.

DCF 1.0

Acknowledgements for Trailing Sky Six Feathers

This book is ready to dance in the daylight. I offer thanks to the many hearts and minds that helped me complete this piece of writing. http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

In the summer of 2010 my friend Joseph Kennedy and his wife Helen offered their secluded cottage on a beautiful lake so I could begin the work on this manuscript. In the solitude a first draft about four centuries of my consciousness began to emerge. Their repeated kindness in providing the perfect locale to write is deeply appreciated. This book has been percolating in my mind for over two hundred and thirty years, yet how do I write about The Muse – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – my Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777? She vows to find me in a future time, despite the overwhelming resistance from my intellectual mind to remember her.
All trace of me from the manuscript was removed for a while after that summer. Two years passed by. In the spring of 2012 I returned to the remote cottage and manuscript. I began to absorb what I had previously written and transmuted it to another level with copyediting advice from my wife Carolyn. Her contribution to the manuscript was immense as the collision of past life with present time impacted her as well as me. I had immense support and encouragement from many sources. The biggest impact on my “remembering” was Trailing Sky Six Feathers herself. Past life memories collided head on with my present life, all thanks to her persistence – the Muse who refused to give up. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse from the 18th century brought understanding not only to me, but to anyone striving to overcome the darkness of their past.

Driftwood

In the spring of 2013 the lure of a writer’s retreat in Sedona was irresistible. My companion writers arrived as strangers and we left as a tight knit family. Their talent and bravery to bring forward deeply personal issues in their writing impressed me. As did our day on the land with a gifted guide, Clint Frakes, which culminated in a medicine wheel ceremony that deeply affected every one of us. EagleSpirit, a contemporary shaman from New Brunswick in Canada, took photos of the medicine wheel after we had left it. She caught a light beam right in the middle of the medicine wheel, exactly where I had been standing. With her permission that photo adorns the cover of this book. Also on the front cover is a superimposed photo of a statue of Sacawajea sculpted by John Soderland. My humble thanks to both EagleSpirit and John for their gifts to this work. My niece Theresa Kelly and her partner Steve da Costa sculpted these two photos into the front cover for the book. I offer my appreciation of their skill and care.

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel

I benefited enormously from my fellow writers who bared their souls in beautifully written and courageous prose. I could do no less. My thanks to Lydia Ramsey, Gary Finnan, Randy Webster, Daniella Panet-Raymond, Diana Howe-Richards, Krista Houstoun, Susan Mullen, Mary Beth Robinson, Dana Srebenick, Mary Enright-Olson, Darlene Simmonds, Lori Morrison Novoa, EagleSpirit, Pat Knauss, Charisse Webster, Pauleen Robertson and Arlene Dreste. The keen editing eyes of the brilliant facilitators – Lisa Fugard and Julie Colvin – led me to cut prose that I liked, but did not need. In the rewrite I introduced, where necessary, a harsh and somewhat ugly honesty that brought the missing edge to the adventure. Throughout the manuscript the footprint of Trailing Sky Six Feathers danced lightly. Though sometimes she needed heavy wooden clogs on her feet to kick my backside so I would fully wake up to her presence.
I also attended the fall writers retreat in Sedona with the same facilitators to create the final refinements to my book. It was a privilege to share excerpts from the work with gifted writers and facilitators. My personal journey through four centuries of consciousness seemed to strike a chord. That insignia continued once the retreat finished, as Carolyn joined me for a further week to explore the extraordinary terrain of Red Rock Country. Clint Frakes took us out on the land – walking in to Cathedral Rock from Red Rock Crossing at sunrise. We climbed a vertical cliff to a hidden space where Clint conducted a sacred ceremony for us in front of two soaring slabs of pictoglyphs – painted and carved. We left hours later, transformed and imbued with the reality of Traiing Sky Six Feathers. Walking the land evoked the latticework of vortex energy, challenging us to be the best we can. Later in the day, just before sunset, Clint provided an awesome medicine wheel experience for us. He had re-built this wheel many years ago and before we left this sacred place he took out a stone, the size of my hand, from the medicine wheel and gave it to me. A gift to call us home to the awakened self that has been sleeping. My debt to Clint and to the land of the Red Rock country is completely beyond words.

The integral person of my book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – was everywhere. Nowhere so strong and beautiful as when Carolyn perused the Kopavi Gallery, just across the road from Tlaquepaque – Sedona’s most exotic market. In the Kopavi Gallery, Carolyn was shown an eagle feather pendant in 18K gold. It was intricately hand carved by John Coochywpten of the Hopi Tobacco Clan, a master goldsmith who blessed each of his pieces with prayer and ceremony before they went to market. The pendant was small, approximately one slim inch long. The foundation was a beautifully crafted eagle feather in gold. John Coochywpten placed a medicine wheel at the top of the feather and rested an eagle head with an all seeing diamond eye upon it. The two diamonds at the bottom of the feather depicted two travelers through time. The pendant had a simmering power to it that Carolyn felt deeply. She gasped with surprise the moment she saw it, as it was a symbolic reflection of this book and the modern day adventure she and I were exploring. This gold and diamond pendant spoke of Trailing Sky Six Feathers’ legacy to us.

Sacawajea

While Carolyn was upstairs in the Kopavi Gallery, I had been sitting outside on a wooden bench, taking in the sky, moving clouds, the sound of Oak Creek with traffic as a background hum. I was inadvertently ready for a sign, which came in a totally hilarious manner. I meditated and after a short internal dialog with Trailing Sky about my next steps, I opened my eyes. I saw a white utility van slowly approaching the round-about right in front of me. Emblazoned in bold, red capital letters on the side panel was the logo “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” I laughed out loud at that and later wondered how Trailing Sky had managed such perfect timing. I went upstairs to join Carolyn in the Kopavi Gallery. She was telling the manager of the gallery the story of my book and why the Eagle Pendant had spoken so deeply to her. I could see how elated Carolyn was, with that secret smile she saves for rare occasions. And there was the talisman of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker in minute detail and provocative power. I looked at it for a long moment. Carolyn softly asked me if I saw and felt its resonance. There was no hesitation on my part. After all, I had just received the message “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” Carolyn knew intuitively that the pendant symbolized my book and our 21st century adventure. We were glowing with confirmation.
Carolyn and I were forever changed by this gift. I offer homage to the Hopi goldsmith as John Coochywpten suffered a stroke after completing this incredible piece of art and lost the use of his right arm. This was the last piece he ever made. I can never thank him enough for creating the symbol that provided Carolyn and I with such startling confirmation.

The Three Advisors for Vesak

The 2014 Vesak Festival to be held in Ottawa City Hall on Sunday May 4, 2014 had the good fortune to receive guidance from three spiritual advisors – Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa for the Vesak Festival in City Hall on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. The planning of the program, participants and networking all went very smoothly. Organization meetings were held in the various temples and mindfulness centres in the city.

Ian Prattis  Director of Programing of Vesak In Ottawa talking about the goals and plans2 (2)

Support for these efforts of multi-culturalism and interbeing came from all levels of government in Canada. The Governor General, Prime Minister, Premier of Ontario and Mayor of Ottawa fully endorsed this initiative, which is new to Ottawa and indeed new to Canada. Other Buddhist communities in the City of Ottawa also came out in support. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country. It was recognized by the three advisors that future events would focus on different causes.
The manner of patience, goodwill and sage counsel from the three advisors provided the glue of integration for an exciting adventure to unfold in Ottawa for the Celebrating Vesak Day.

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)